Album Reviews

Claire Martin and Richard Rodney Bennett – Witchcraft (Linn) £13.99: Here’s a lovely record. The partnership between Martin, one of our finest singers, and Bennett is a beguiling one that straddles the divide between jazz and high-class cabaret and makes for a CD that is both highly entertaining and contains some wonderfully classy music. The programme is composed entirely of songs by Cy Coleman, and the duo works through them with panache. Martin is excellent throughout, her gift for bringing the best out of a lyric well to the fore, and Bennett is an ideal partner, both in his super-sensitive piano accompaniments and slightly gruff vocals which are leavened by an impish sense of humour. AV

Louis Prima – Buona Sera (Proper Properbox) £16.99: Prima’s a bit of a forgotten man these days, but this splendid four-CD collection of his best work might redress the balance. It’s all good fun, the leader’s frantic vocals and hot New Orleans-style trumpet spearheading a lively small band that was a fixture of the Las Vegas lounges for years. Prima’s wife, Keely Smith, pitches in with some good vocals and the whole thing is enlivened by the unsubtle but powerful tenor playing of Sam Butera. All the big hits are here – Buona Sera, I Ain’t Got Nobody and many more and all round it’s a set that cheers. AV

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Czech Piano Trios (Praga Digitals PRD/DSD 250 280) £13.99: From the good natured Second Piano Trio of Josef Foerster, through the turbulence of Novak’s autobiographical trio, to Fibich’s Schumann-inspired trio. It all makes for a hugely desirable disc of seldom heard Czech masterpieces that followed the Smetana era. They wrap around the fascinating sounds of Janacek’s Pohadka (Fairy Tales) scored for cello and piano. Don’t miss the young Kinsky Trio Prague who move so convincingly through changing moods with playing of great beauty and immaculate technique. DD

Schmitt – Piano Quintet, A tour d’anches (Naxos 8.570489) £5.99: As long as a Bruckner symphony, as impassioned as a Rachmaninov piano concerto, Florent Schmitt’s much neglected Piano Quintet belongs to the last flowering of the Romantic era. The dramatic opening movement; a shimmering slow heart of the score, and a brilliant finale, this engaging work is splendid performed by Solisten-Ensemble Berlin. From the sublime to the ridiculous with the fun piece, A tour d’anches, for piano and wind trio. Immaculate sound quality. DD